Leadership And The Power Of Choices

One chose the path and the other chose the rocks.

One chose the path and the other chose the rocks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  In particular, the way we influence others.  After having one of those days, I wanted nothing more than to go for a hike with my three favorite hiking buddies.  We have a nice little canyon within walking distance of our house that boasts a wide trail, water, mud and rocks– perfect for little boys.

As we hiked, we came to a portion of the trail that had a very narrow, walkable section with a very wide part with lots of rocks and mud.  I did my best to highlight the correct place to walk.  My 3-year-old, Sam, was hellbent on trudging through every obstacle.  When it came time to cross the stream, both boys were as excited about running through the stream as I was about keeping my feet dry.

My wife and I have been spending quite a bit of time in recent months allowing our kids to make choices and experience the natural consequences of those choices.  For example, run through the mud and you will deal with heavy, wet feet.  Of course, I dealt with the consequences of that choice when it came time to carry him.  The method isn’t totally perfect.

So often we think of leadership as a my way or the highway sort of proposition.  After all, I’m the leader therefore I must know best.  I’m reminded of two aspects of great leadership.

1. Great leaders model greatly- Great leaders practice what they preach because they realize that the practice has a much more significant impact than the preaching.  In the case of my kids, my chief goal is to model a better way for them.  On my customer service team, if I can’t practice awesome customer service with my staff, how are they ever going deliver awesome customer service to our customers?

2. Great leaders allow others to succeed…and fail- As leaders, our job is to place people in the best possible position to be successful.  It is also our job to allow them to learn and grow along the way, even if at times they fail.  We will have opportunities to model and mentor along the way but ultimately they need to be able to choose the course of action they take.

I am increasingly amazed at the life lessons I learn from these little beings I’m responsible for.  As leaders, don’t forget to join them in the mud once in a while as well.


Jeremy Watkin is a Product Marketing Manager at 8x8. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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